“The way of a superior man is threefold: virtuous, he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold, he is free from fear” (Confucius).
THE WILLINGNESS TO BE BOLD, WHEN NEED BE, IS A SIGN OF STRONG, MATURE CHARACTER. We may wish it were otherwise, but the world in which we live is full of danger and difficulty, and the bold are those who will go out and meet these realities head-on. So if we ourselves aren’t bold, we’re probably glad to know someone who is.
Boldness, like fire, must be handled with care. Great harm can be done by “zeal without knowledge,” as we all know, but that is not an argument against wise and disciplined boldness. The person who never acts boldly because he always plays it safe will never know the thrill of risk-taking and adventure in the service of a great cause.
Big problems often require bold solutions, and when bold action is called for, we shouldn’t waste time looking for a risk-free way to do what has to be done. David Lloyd George, the British prime minister during World War I, said, “Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated; you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” Indeed, there are times when the riskiest thing we can do is play it safe. “In difficult situations when hope seems feeble, the boldest plans are safest” (Livy) — and the “hardest” course often turns out to be the “easiest.”
Not only do individuals need to be bold, but there are times when nations and communities do too. Especially today, when the problems that confront the world are so immense, we can’t afford to be timid or squeamish. Addressing the challenges of the American people in his day, Theodore Roosevelt said, “If we shrink from the hard contests . . . then bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by.”
Boldness requires a certain amount of character, obviously, but it also builds character. Just as lifting heavy weights builds stronger muscles, dealing boldly with difficulty makes us stronger spiritually. That being true, I urge you to choose the more difficult deed whenever you have the opportunity. Do it with all the boldness you can muster, and you’ll find yourself growing in ways that may surprise you. Don’t run away from choices that would require boldness. Welcome them!
“When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take — choose the bolder” (W. J. Slim).